As a spiritual successor to well-loved sports cars like the Toyota Supra, Celica, and 2000GT, the Toyota FT-1 concept is a welcome assurance that there is still passion and imagination stirring in Toyota City. Toyota's Calty design center research president Kevin Hunter was eager announce the Toyota FT-1 as the company’s halo sports car at the 2014 Detroit auto show, suggesting there is a good chance we’ll be seeing shades of the sexy, low-slung red concept across Toyota’s future model range.
Hoping to capture some of the passion and performance chops currently making its way into Lexus vehicles, the FT-1 is the next step in a process begun by the Toyota GT86/Scion FR-S to “make it cool.”
“For many years, Toyota has approached product development relying on a strong influence from the market through consumer studies, and a high degree of internal consensus,” Hunter said today. "The goal was to produce a vehicle that was liked by everyone…and as a result, we took less risk and tried not to stray too far from designs that had been a success.
“Toyota’s design efforts are less reliant on consensus now. We have empowered our designers and engineers to develop a creative and passionate vision of future mobility. The goal is simple, yet profound…develop future generations of products that connect on an emotional level."
The flashy Toyota FT-1 concept, which stands for Future Toyota, shows that things are hopefully headed in a sportier new direction. With its classically long hood proportions, low stance, deep curves, giant retractable rear-wing, and hungry-looking dual front intakes, the new concept certainly looks the part. Sharp, thin headlamps and taillights flanked by vertical air scoops add an even more aggressive look, while the large side scoops and shapely side skirts complete the visual effect in profile. Inside, the Toyota FT-1 concept looks and feels almost like a Formula One car. A no-nonsense minimalist interior with heavily-bolstered seats and a futuristic heads-up display lock the driver in to a serious race setting, complete with a red-and-black flat-bottomed steering wheel.
At this point, all we know for sure is that Toyota told us the front-engine Toyota FT-1 concept utilizes a naturally-aspirated high-output internal combustion engine and an extensive aerodynamic lightweight design meant for high-performance track drivers and enthusiasts alike.
Emerging from a glossy red box lowered from the ceiling, the sculpted, windswept Toyota FT-1 concept coupe looks to answer Akio Toyota’s demand for cars that inspire excitement and inspiration from car enthusiasts. Acknowledging the many years of lackluster cars that failed to meet this benchmark, Hunter explained how the FT-1 concept heralds the beginning of a new design strategy.
While we have long anticipated a successor to the much-loved 320-hp, 3.0-liter straight-six-cylinder Toyota Supra that ended its run in the U.S. in 1999, most believed the concept would debut at the 2014 Detroit auto show with a hybrid powertrain and all-wheel-drive developed in concert with BMW. Hunter told us that the FT-1 is a totally separate endeavor from the previously announced BMW-Toyota joint sports car, and it is at this time, “strictly a design concept.” We’re still skeptical of that claim, as Hunter conceded that he “like[s] to look at our concept cars as having purpose, but that’s all I can say. We’re studying it.”
Toyota Calty research studio chief designer Alex Shen told us about as much in an interview, envisioning the Toyota FT-1 as a spiritual pace car for the brand, “adding more emotional content that will work across the Toyota line.” When pressed about the powertrain details or specs, Shen was predictably brief. “We want people to focus on the image of [the car] — the rest is up to your imagination.”
Toyota did announced that the FT-1 concept will be available tomorrow for download as a playable vehicle in the video game Gran Turismo 6, at which point the full spec-list will be available in-game. Check back for more updates on the Toyota FT-1 concept, and keep following our coverage of the 2014 Detroit auto show here and live on Twitter.